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The Hand-Off

Numbers 20:27b-29
And they went up Mount Hor in the sight of all the congregation. And Moses stripped Aaron of his garments and put them on Eleazar his son. And Aaron died there on top of the mountain. … And when all the congregation saw that Aaron had perished, all the house of Israel wept for Aaron thirty days.

We were there with Moses in Exodus 40 when he first dressed Aaron in these priestly robes. We stood with the congregation, watching silently, in awe of God’s creative handiwork, enthralled by the whole spectacle. We watched Aaron metamorphosize before our very eyes in his shimmering, new attire, grow ten feet taller as it were, dripping with the baptismal oil of his anointing, each droplet a glistening prism that reflected sunbeams across the commonwealth. Our jaws dropped at the finely-threaded purple and red and blue ephod, with a breastplate covered in four rows of precious gemstones, twelve in all, one for every tribe in Israel, with two golden rings marking the edges of the breastplate, bound to the ephod by two more golden rings. Light flashed in our eyes from that crown of pure gold on Aaron’s head, and from those engraved onyx stones on his shoulders. Aaron stood out above all of us, above the whole world as it were, as if the throne he inhabited was not of earth but of heaven. And though we knew by our human reason that he’d still be the same man we’d known before, and always just a man at that, we knew as well by the wonder of regeneration that Aaron became something new. A priest of the True and Living LORD in a perpetual priesthood: a man of the cloth.

While this dressing down marks the end of Aaron’s earthly pilgrimage, it also marks the genesis of his heavenly one. It’s time for him to trade these finite rags for a richer, more resplendent gown. Time to exchange his golden crown for a crown of everlasting glory. Time to set aside his dusty sandals and take his stand between Seraphim and archangels!

Perhaps that’s the best eulogy we could offer as we watch Moses strip Aaron of the garments he wore faithfully throughout his earthly ministry. That the next hands to hold him, and embrace him, and dress him from here, are the nail-pierced hands of his Redeemer!